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Get the Photos You Want: Learn to Crop

By Richard Killey

The photo from a 3.2 mega pixel camera can print a fair quality 8 x 10 print at 200 dpi. So, why do people buy 4, 5, or even 6 mega pixel cameras?

Well, maybe they want 11 x 14 prints, which at 200 dpi require a 6 mega pixel camera.

However, more importantly, a higher mega pixel camera lets you "crop" your photo. That is where you cut away part of the photo, not only giving you the photo you want, but also making the photo smaller in pixels. As long as you start with more pixels, it is easier to cut stuff out and still keep enough pixels to make it good for prints.

Speaking of cropping, look at the ratios of common print sizes.

a 4 x 6 has a 1.50 ratio
a 5 x 7 has a 1.40 ratio
an 8 x 10 has a 1.25 ratio

What about cameras?

Most newer point-and-shoot digitals have a ratio of 1.33 !!!

What do the photo finishers do when you send them a 1.33 and ask them to print a 1.50? They crop the picture where they think you want it cropped.

How often are they wrong?

A great thing about ordering on-line through the better quality photo finishers is that the web site shows you where the cropping will occur and allows you to change it. That is a great feature.

A better solution, though, is to learn how to do the cropping by using your home computer. Programs like Photo Shop and Paint Shop Pro have pre-defined cropping tools set to the same common ratios as I listed above. Simply open the photo file in your paint program, choose the crop tool, set to the correct ratio, and choose the portion of the photo you want to print.

Now, just save all of the newly cropped files in a separate folder for easy uploading to your retailer or to a memory card that you take in to their 1 hour service.

There are 3 common guidelines to consider when composing a photo

1 know your subject
2 draw attention to your subject
3 simplify

By cropping your photo, you not only assure that you get the photo you wanted; you also follow guidelines # 2 and 3 from the list. Happy cropping.

Richard Killey is an amateur photographer who shares the love of his hobby with readers of his website. Visit to read other articles of interest.

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